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The Daily Enlightenment
 Quote: Fire & Water

Saying ‘fire’
won’t burn your mouth;
Saying ‘water’
won’t drown you.

– Buddhist Saying

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 Realisation: How The Buddha Consoled A Bereaved Mother

For one who has a clinging mind
and finds delight in babes and herds,
death does seize and carry away
as a great flood a sleeping village.

– The Buddha (Dhammapada, Verse 287)
As the young Kisa Gotami had never witnessed the death of anyone before, while her baby passed away when he could just barely walk, she could neither comprehend nor accept its reality. When his body had to be cremated, she even forbade it, while remaining determined to seek medication to bring him back to life. Carrying his body, she ventured from house to house to ask for a cure… until others came to say call her stark crazy. Yet, she refused to give up. Seeing her heartbreaking and desperate despair, a wise man realised that she must have lost her firstborn, while not being aware of the impermanence of life. Thus, he advised her to ask the Buddha for the 'cure'. After she managed to meet and pay respects to the Buddha, she enquired if he knew of a cure, to which the Buddha says he does. Asking what she should do, the Buddha instructed her to find and return with a pinch of white mustard seeds – from a house in which no death of a son, daughter or any other person had ever occured.

Still carrying her child, she entered a village and came to the door of the first house, anxiously requesting for the seeds. When some were brought to her, she remembered to ask if no son or daughter had died in the household. (We are all are sons and daughters, whether young or old!) With incredulity, the householder's reply was that the living are few, in comparison to the deceased who are many. Hearing so, she returned the seeds. In this way, from house to house, she searched for the right seeds… to avail. When evening arrived, she calmed down and reflected that it was an impossible quest, that while she assumed she was the only one who had lost a dear one, many others did too. Her broken heart thus healed with renewed resolution, as she decided that it was time to let go of her child's body. Returning seedless to the Buddha, he affirmed that all beings are subject to the raging torrent of death, which sweeps all to ruin, with desires unfulfilled (when there is much attachment not relinquished in time).

As he finished uttering the opening verse, she realised stream-entry and requested to ordain as a nun. One day, after lighting a lamp, she contemplated that similar to the flames, some beings 'flare up' to life, others 'flicker out' in death, while those who attained Nirvana are no more seen (trapped in rebirth). Knowing this, the Buddha manifested before her and proclaimed the ending verse, with which she attained Arhathood. Although her ignorance of death seemed unbelievable, most of us also complacently deny its eventuality to some extent, which is why we often live as if we will never die. Even as we treasure our relations and possessions now, we should be mindful that these too, shall pass. Appearing to 'lie' when asking for arbitrary seeds for a medical cure, the Buddha was actually skilfully guiding her to gradually awaken to the prevalence of death, to let the truth sink in. Without false hope, eventually shared was the cure for transcending cyclical life and death – the path to deathless self-liberation!

Though one should live a hundred years
not seeing the deathless state [Nirvana],
yet better is life for a single day
seeing [realising] Deathlessness.

– The Buddha (Dhammapada, Verse 114)

Related Articles:

Is There Tension Between Compassion & Detachment?
How To Easier Accept A Loved One's Suffering

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 Excerpt: The Groom Who Lost His Bride To The Stars

The only destiny worth fulfilling
is that you create
for the good of one and all.

- Stonepeace | Get Books

Once upon a time, there was a rich family living in Benares, in northern India. They arranged for their son to marry a good and honest girl from a nearby village. Being very pretty as well, they were sure they could not find a better wife for their son. The groom's family decided on a date for the wedding. The bride's family agreed to meet them in the village on the wedding day. Meanwhile, the rich family also had their own special astrological priest. When he found out they had picked the wedding day, without paying him to consult the stars, he became angry. He decided to get even with them. When the wedding day arrived, the astrological priest dressed up in his finest robes, and called the family together. He bowed to them all, and then looked at his star charts very seriously. He told them that this star was too close to the horizon, and that planet was in the middle of an unlucky constellation, and the moon was in a very dangerous phase for having a wedding. He told them that, not seeking his advice, they had picked the worst day of the year for a wedding. This could only lead to a terrible marriage. The frightened family forgot all about the wonderful qualities of the intended bride, and remained home in Benares.

Meanwhile the bride's family had arranged everything for the village wedding ceremony. When the agreed upon hour arrived, they waited and waited for the future husband and his family. Finally they realized they were not coming. So they thought, "Those city people picked the date and time, and now they didn't show up. This is insulting! Why should we wait any longer? Let our daughter marry an honourable and hard working village man." So they quickly arranged a new marriage and celebrated the wedding. The next day, the astrological priest said that, suddenly, the stars and planets and moon were in perfect positions for a wedding! So the Benares family went to the village and asked for the wedding to take place. But the village people said, "You picked the date and time. Then you disgraced us by not showing up!"

The city people replied, "Our family priest told us that yesterday the stars and planets and moon were in terrible positions. It was a very unlucky day for a wedding. But he has assured us that today is a most lucky day. So please send us the bride at once!" The village family said, "You have no honour. You have made the choice of the day more important than the choice of the bride. It's too late now! Our daughter has married another." Then the two families began to quarrel heatedly. A wise man happened to come along. Seeing the two families quarrelling so,. he tried to settle the dispute. The city people told him that they had respected the warnings of their astrological priest. It was because of the unlucky positions of the stars and planets and moon, that they had not come to the wedding. The wise man said, "The good fortune was in the bride, not in the stars. You fools have followed the stars and lost the bride. Without your foolishness, those far off stars can do nothing!" The moral is: 'Luck' comes from actions, not from stars.

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